The families of 16 Afghan villagers killed earlier this month by an American soldier were given $50,000 by the United States for each of their slain relatives, Afghan and American officials said Sunday. The total payout is estimated at about $900,000.
The announcement of the payment was accompanied by new details of US Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales' activity on the night of the massacre. Bales is currently in US custody in the United States where he will face trial, and possibly the death penalty, for the massacre.
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Associated Press reports:
The sums, much larger than typical payments made by the U.S. to families of civilians killed in military operations in Afghanistan, come as the U.S. tries to mend relations following the killing rampage that has threatened to undermine the international effort here.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is accused of sneaking off his base on March 11, then creeping into houses in two nearby villages and opening fire on families as they slept.
U.S. investigators believe the gunman returned to his base after the first attack and later slipped away to kill again, American officials have said. Bales has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and other crimes and could face the death penalty if convicted.
That would seem to support the U.S. government's assertion — contested by some Afghans — that the shooter acted alone, since the killings would have been perpetrated over a longer period of time than assumed when Bales was detained outside his base in Kandahar province's Panjwai district.
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"We were invited by the foreign and Afghan officials in Panjwai yesterday and they said this money is an assistance from Obama," Haji Jan Agha, who said he lost his cousins, told Reuters, referring to U.S. President Barack Obama.
The U.S. embassy directed all questions to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which is fighting the war in Afghanistan.
An ISAF spokesman said he was in not in a position to either confirm or deny whether compensation was given, and if so how much.
Lieutenant Commander Brian Badura said that as a matter of policy ISAF does not make restitution for losses resulting from combat, combat-related activities or operational necessity.
"Individual troop contributing nations may participate in some form of restitution consistent with the cultural norms of Afghanistan," he said. "Settlement can come in a number of forms which may (be) but is not always financial."
"As a settlement of claims in most cases is a sensitive topic for those who have suffered loss it is usually a matter of agreement that terms of settlement remain confidential."
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